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What Are Splash Cymbals?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 23, 2024
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The splash cymbal is a specific kind of small cymbal that some drummers add as an accessory to their drum sets or kits. Some describe this kind of cymbal as an accent cymbal, because rather than playing a critical function in the drum set, it accents a traditional cymbal, which is called a crash cymbal, by creating an additional cymbal tone, enabling a drummer to play a greater range of sounds or, as some experts say, providing more “color” or “tone variation.” Other similar cymbals include the china cymbal, which is also smaller than the average cymbal on a drum set. Accent cymbals can allow drummers to play less extreme cymbal sounds, or provide more opportunities for simultaneously striking cymbals, when they are mounted in different areas of the set.

By comparison to more conventional cymbals, splash cymbals have relatively small diameters. A common size for this cymbal is a 10 inch (about 25 cm) diameter. Regular crash cymbals have much larger diameters than these smaller items. The smaller splash cymbals will generally produce lighter sounds than a traditional crash cymbal.

As unique types of accents for percussion, splash symbols are used in many different kinds of music. They may be used in rock or pop music, as well as certain kinds of Latin American dance music and other kinds of world music. Jazz drummers might also use these smaller cymbals to create more diverse sounds. In modern music, these cymbals are most often associated with rock music.

One use of splash cymbals in drums is in something called cymbal stacking. Here the drummer mounts one cymbal in close proximity to another. The smaller cymbals typically get mounted on top with larger cymbals underneath, so that when the drummer strikes the entire set at one time, there is a distinct kind of larger sound.

Other drummers use a range of techniques for mounting splash cymbals. Some mount them upside down directly on top of the traditional crash cymbal. There’s also the option of “piggybacking” cymbals, which means mounting two or more cymbals on the same stand. These smaller cymbals can add functionality to a drum set in different ways, depending on the overall style and technique of the drummer. A free or fixed mount can also change the sound of the cymbal.

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